Kits are a way for clubs to make money by using their brand as an advertising platform. Since soccer clubs usually get tremendous media exposure and are broadcast to large audiences regularly, the apparel and jerseys they wear can attract a significant amount of attention. Soccer clubs have learned to use that to their advantage, and now they sign contracts with large clothing and apparel manufacturers like Nike or Adidas to get paid to use their merchandise.

However, just as soccer clubs are not all created equal, neither are these contracts. For small market soccer clubs like Burnley who haven’t had the same levels of success as a top club like Liverpool and have a smaller fanbase, fewer of their games will be broadcast, and their jerseys won’t sell as well. This provides manufacturers who have the ability to negotiate enormous contracts with less of an incentive to provide the team with a large kit deal. Supplying kits comes at a great cost to manufacturers, so the value of the advertising that they expect in return is very high, and unfortunately smaller clubs can’t create that level of value. As a result, small market teams tend to negotiate much smaller deals with kit suppliers. The disparity in wealth from these deals is tremendous, with large clubs receiving tens to hundreds of millions of pounds more than small clubs. Below is a table showing the three largest kit deals in the EPL as well as 3 of the smallest. All figures are expressed in pounds sterling.

Club Brand Deal Annual Revenue
Manchester United Adidas 750M, 10 years 75M
Manchester City Puma 650M, 10 years 65M
Chelsea Nike 900M, 15 years 60M
Brighton Nike 4.5M, 3 years 1.5M
AFC Bournemouth Umbro 4M, 4 years 1M
Watford Adidas 2.25M, 3 years 750k

Source: Friend, Nick. “Premier League 2018/19 Commercial Guide: Every Club, Every Sponsor.” SportsPro, SportsPro, 10 Aug. 2018, www.sportspromedia.com/analysis/premier-league-preview-2018-19-sponsors-kit-deals-every-club.

Another trend you’ll notice as you look at these deals is that smaller clubs will not only sign smaller contracts with kit manufacturers, but usually they are also much shorter in duration. That is because brands don’t want to be committed to a club that doesn’t guarantee them value for the foreseeable future. A club like Manchester United or Arsenal will consistently have lots of its games broadcast and has an enormous fanbase both in and out of the UK. This translates to value for kit manufacturers by exposing their brand to a very large audience. Due to the economics of kit deals, there isn’t much to do about the disparity in revenue between teams, since there is no way to force kit manufacturers into deals, or deals of certain values, without infringing upon their sovereignties as businesses. The only real solution would be to take negotiation of kit deals completely out of the hands of individual clubs and have kits be provided by the EPL. This, however, would require a serious adjustment on the part of both the clubs and the EPL, as the clubs would have to restructure their business models and the EPL would have to handle negotiations with kit manufacturers to supply the whole league. This could present an opportunity for the EPL to distribute money more equitably, but comes with a plethora of problems, such as potentially breeding corruption in an empowered EPL. An alternate structure for kit revenues however, is the subject of another debate entirely.

 

 

Works Cited:

Friend, Nick. “Premier League 2018/19 Commercial Guide: Every Club, Every Sponsor.” SportsPro, SportsPro, 10 Aug. 2018, www.sportspromedia.com/analysis/premier-league-preview-2018-19-sponsors-kit-deals-every-club.